Bridges Social Development
Our Story Why We Exist
We believe that building human capacity begins with human-to-human relationships; and that social change results from transforming relationships.
We believe that it is through meaningful relationships that we have the ability to influence systems, and build human capacity that leads to positive change. These human-to-human relationships in essence become our leverage points for change. It is in relationship that we can role model, build confidence, provide guidance, increase meaning & purpose, offer helpful feedback to course correct, connect to opportunities, and navigate barriers all with the intention of unveiling someone’s potential; this potential is the root of possibility for positive change.
According to Researcher Martin Smith, “…Trusting and supportive relationships are at the heart of the intentional change process…Our relationships offer context for understanding our progress in our learning and change efforts and for realizing the usefulness of what we are learning.” - Melvin L. Smith. 2006. ["Social capital and intentional change.” Journal of Management Development, 25(7), pp.718-731]
Despite offerings of educational, training, or leadership programs, many youth in Calgary are struggling to create meaningful futures for themselves and their communities. We’ve experienced programming struggles with low turn-outs, unreliable attendance for the course of the program, and minimal changes for the participants post-program. Bridges has come to realize that existing programs encounter challenges with engagement of youth, and follow through by youth participants in pursuing their goals for creating meaningful futures. We think that something needs to be done differently, and that looks like innovative bridging work. Our work uses a relationship-building approach that strengthens the investment of partner organizations in youth & young adults, as well the outcomes for youth as they navigate their individual futures.
Our Impact What We Do
Bridges Social Development offers training and support to build the capacity of youth and young adults. This work is carried out through an approach based on Bridges’ Unveiling Youth Potential program, which is aimed at realizing the potential of youth and young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 by supporting their leadership roles in building strong, resilient communities.
Bridges' works by responding to community invitations to design and implement programs that help discover and develop youth potential. All initiatives are co-designed with communities based on the concepts contained in our Unveiling Youth Potential approach. This approach believes in the potential of youth and uses elements of personal leadership, community leadership, and change leadership to encourage and inspire this potential into reality. In essence, Bridges Social Development exists to meet needs, or confront barriers that unlock the potential of youth and young adults. Many of our current invitations are with First Nations communities in the Treaty 7 area.
First Nations youth in Calgary are struggling to create meaningful futures for themselves and their communities. While there are many offerings of programs that target First Nations youth, these existing programs encounter challenges with engagement of youth, and follow through by youth participants in pursuing their career and/or academic goals. Canada Bridges believes that the need for First Nations youth is not another pre-employment program offering, but rather a broader need for coordination, collaboration, youth engagement and ongoing mentorship that Bridges has the expertise and opportunity to fill. Our support includes intentional and active youth engagement, programming co-design and delivery, and long-term mentorship for youth and young adults post-program to support individuals as they navigate their way to school, a career or meaningful work, or community involvement.
Our Programs How We Do It
What is Unveiling Youth Potential?
Unveiling Youth Potential (UYP) is a youth empowerment program aimed at realizing the potential of youth and young adults by supporting their leadership roles in building strong, resilient communities. This program was developed out of our beliefs that positive social change is necessary for the world to progress in a way that is healthy and vibrant; and that youth and young adults represent the group that offers the greatest hope for this change as they go beyond societal, cultural, governmental and institutional barriers to enliven the wisdom of communities around the world. Furthermore, we believe that youth and young adults desire positive social change . . . in fact, their future may depend on it.
What is Included in Unveiling Youth Potential?
UYP is an approach to youth leadership training and development, during which the following components are integrated:
- Wisdom Stories answer the question of WHY you want to inspire change. What is it that youth participants are passionate about, and what motivates them? What is it that makes them believe they are the right individuals to lead change?
- Community Mapping answers the question of WHERE you are going to inspire change. Participants may choose to focus on any community that they belong to, but they will be most influential in a community they deeply care about.
- Change Leadership answers the question of HOW you are going to inspire change. Unveiling Youth Potential introduces a leadership strategy called “Gentle Action”, adapted from a book of the same name by David F. Peat. Gentle action is all about introducing small changes that are sensitive, relevant, and culturally-aware.
- Social Entrepreneurship answers the question of WHAT you are going to do to inspire change. Unveiling Youth Potential teaches social entrepreneurship from a perspective of compassion. The goal is that youth participants would see themselves differently in relation to the world around them – that they would feel empowered to respond to social issues.
What are the Goals of Unveiling Youth Potential?
Bridges Social Development aims to empower youth to be agents of change by supporting the development of capacities necessary to respond to the conditions of their environment and meet situational challenges. Through the UYP program, Bridges Social Development supports empowerment by inviting youth participants to reflect on themselves and their communities – and the connectedness between the two – and then take action by responding to community needs or priorities. This process sustains the practice of praxis, develops critical consciousness and social competency to unveil, build, and sustain youth potential and capacity. Youth become agents of change as they start to take action, engaging within their communities whether by just simply being kind to others, being a better neighbour, daughter, son, mother, father, sibling, or by initiating a social change project. Developing the capacity to engage with life’s challenges and subsequently take action are crucial pieces of learning, and Bridges Social Development believes that every youth has this potential: to lead and/or support social change. Through this approach, the building of individual empowerment will result in the realization of healthy and vibrant communities.
Our Requests What You Can Do
Become a Mentor:
Bridges' empowers people by building their capacity and unveiling their potential. Our programming is one piece of this, but an equally important piece is the role that caring adults play in the communities where young people live and work. These caring adults become fellow life journeyers, and ‘lifters’ who support, encourage, and believe in youth participants of our work. If you are interested becoming more engaged with youth in your community or would like to volunteer with Bridges’ Unveiling Youth Potential Mentorship program please join us for the upcoming training sessions.